Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I have been meaning to get into the routine of writing each night before falling into bed. I'll get there.

Several 'things,' for lack of a better description, came together for me recently, in a state of pure exhaustion - teasing sleep, all surrounding the concept of Multiplicity. I have been reading a book called "Who is Running your Life?" At first, I was somewhat embarrassed by it - afraid it was a self-help book full of bullshit. Instead, the conceptualization of the self is so groundbreaking that it holds as much weight and instruction as I imagine Freud or Jung's theories may have had when they were first introduced. The book is clearly published through a print-on-demand service, is nothing fabulous to look at, but the concept of the self is something I have never encountered. In a nutshell, the idea is that every individual human being is made up of a family or community of inner sub-selves all vying for control/recognition/acceptance. I will not attempt to flush out the details, but I have been repeatedly surprised by the feeling of learning something very useful directly about my inner workings from a book. Generally, I find publications designed to teach me something about myself to be filled with utter crap and/or things I already know. This book is not.

I've still been reading works for the "Cinema and Its Doubles" film course - exploring fragmentation, doubling, and multiplicity in images, with their psychological symbolism.

Also - the artist whose work I have been studying as part of my employed work has done a series of collages featuring many many images of himself, in different postures, garb, etc. A large part of his explorations seem to have been grounded in the formation of an outer identity and/or persona -- also a fragmentation of self.

There has been at least one other encounter with multiplicity in my current studies that I cannot put my finger on at the moment.

I have been frustrated, for months now, with a general lack of direction in my work (as an artist). Having less time to exist in the studio, (and still questioning the relevance of "studio"), I have become discontented with my older methods of working. In the past, I was satisfied to keep making, regardless of concept. Instead of developing a solid conceptual framework for my work before picking up materials, I experimented very loosely with many media, in a sense very stream-of-conscious, but also somewhat haphazard. I studied chance and the I-Ching, but never found the experience to be thoroughly sustainable and/or especially inspired.

So, ... I have stopped mindlessly making, making, making, and have felt my hands literally ache to create. But my mind has not caught up, has not been "in on" my artistic work, so I have abstained. This surfacing of the multiple in very disparate (yet connected) current avenues of study has me incredibly excited. I feel as though I may be coming around from a very large, wide, circular detour ... back to myself(ves?). This feeling makes breathing more satisfying. I am beginning to feel connected.

I will keep studying, keep exploring and allowing myself a reprieve from the mindless making. I am embracing what comes.

There is a screening of "The Golem" in Portland, tomorrow night, with a live original musical score. I am thinking of bringing the kids.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Student of Prague

I have been thinking consistently about Freud's presentation of the uncanny and my ability (or inability) to articulate an interpretation of the concept. Watching The Student of Prague, the most disturbing moment in the film came for me during the initial scene in Balduin's room, with Scapinelli, when the two of them are discussing a contract to reward Balduin with wealth and potential love. Seeing both men in the mirror while also viewing them in the room had a powerful, disconcerting effect. Also - Balduin's inability to see his own reflection after signing Scapinelli's proposition.

What is it about the doubling effect and the idea of not having a reflection that is so disturbing? What is so important about the ability to see one's own reflection? What is this relationship that is developed with an image in the mirror, and is it that simple (a relationship with an image)? Clearly, other cultures would not share this connection or perception. Is this a common experience or connection among most people within our own culture?

The absence of the reflection as a symbolic loss of the soul is not the most potent thrust of the disturbance, - the more powerful effect is something much more grounded and physical - literal, perhaps, that is truly moving about the loss - something having very little to do with the notion of a soul and much more to do with a communication and understanding of oneself. Personally, I would miss something to do with the eyes - the look of knowing that comes only from a glance I can give to and receive from myself. A look of full understanding that I can see most closely in my life partner, but not completely - not in the way I can receive it from myself. I would miss the ability to check myself, through the eyes alone, to check in with my Self.

This implies a duality - the existence of at least two f(r)actions of being - the one that is seen, and the one that observes, both contained within one body. I have recently been reading a book that discusses the human being as a collection of inner families - a community of "subselves." Is the interaction or comfort received through a glance in the mirror an indication of these "selves"?

The next film on my list is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with a reading by Walter Benjamin.

Broken II

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Uncanny

I have decided to revisit "Cinema and Its Doubles," a course I took back in college, while I was studying writing at Johns Hopkins University. At the time, I was much more interested in embarrassing the cute professor than in studying the films or texts involved in the course. That being said, the course introduced me to Fassbinder for the first time, and to German silent film, ... the first screening involving excerpts from "The Golem."

I was able to locate most of the films on Netflix and am set to screen the first one tomorrow night - "The Student of Prague." The companion text is Freud's "The Uncanny." By now, I have studied a significant amount of Freud, and find it difficult to read without his skewed perceptions glaring through the text.

Freud presents a theory of the uncanny as the resurgence of something that has been repressed, and/or the recurrence of an idea that has been previously surmounted. I can appreciate a notion of the uncanny as something we have proven to be false rearing its head once again, but am more drawn to the idea of the uncanny as a hinting (or illusion) of omnipotence.

The most telling example I can readily pull from my own experience recalls a moment from high school, after dropping acid and wandering through town with a slew of friends. Two of us broke off from the group, attempting to gain a bit of sanity. I was attempting to articulate an all-pervading awareness I had of everything that was about to happen, and my feeling of being able to control reality. I remember sitting at a table, and developing the example that if I moved a salt shaker on the table, all of our friends would re-appear. After explaining my intuition and debating whether or not to interrupt our haven, the only way to test and prove my ridiculous theory was to move the salt shaker.

The moment I did, the door to the room burst open and our friends flooded the space, loud, and chaotic. My friend lept to the floor, backed into the corner, both of us screaming with the physical reality of our mental wanderings. The experience was unsettling, to say the least.

My gut interpretation of the uncanny is something that reaches beyond common experience - it points towards the existence of a power much greater than our current perception. The uncanny presents itself as the unreal made real. It knows and takes refuge in our soft spots.